Home » Children's Books » Why Nancy Drew is an ideal role model for today’s girls (and boys)

Why Nancy Drew is an ideal role model for today’s girls (and boys)

8 November 2017

From author Linda Fairstein via The Lilly:

Whenever asked what prompted my interest in either of my careers — fighting crime or writing crime — I have always credited my passion for both to my pre-adolescent devotion to the teenage sleuth who inspired me twice over: Nancy Drew.

I had been a voracious reader as a child, but my memories of discovering a charismatic teenager and her posse of friends who returned in book after book to take on the evil forces in River Heights marked my initial awareness of continuing characters in a series of novels. I admired everything about Nancy — how intrepid she was in her efforts to set things right, her loyalty to her father and her pals, and her bold manner of taking on mysterious situations to right wrongs, even when adults scoffed at her plans.

. . . .

I smile whenever I hear an accomplished woman mention Nancy Drew — who made her first appearance in 1930 — as an inspirational figure. Former justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote about being pulled away from Nancy’s exploits to do more serious work on the family ranch; Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg responded to the young woman’s adventurous nature and her daring; and Justice Sonia Sotomayor — who has described reading as her “rocket ship out of the second floor apartment” in a South Bronx housing project — admired Nancy’s character and her courage. Hillary Clinton, too, is a fan, respecting how smart and brave Nancy was, also her ability to multitask: taking care of her dad’s house, keeping up with her schoolwork and solving capers on top of it all. Laura Bush also loved reading Nancy Drew mysteries.

. . . .

I have spent 45 years as a lawyer, fighting for justice for women and children who have been victims of violence. And I have written 21 mysteries — two of them for young readers — in which my protagonists, one a prosecutor and the other a 12-year-old sleuth, channel the character and courage of a fictional heroine.

Link to the rest at The Lilly

Here’s a link to Linda Fairstein’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.


Children's Books

16 Comments to “Why Nancy Drew is an ideal role model for today’s girls (and boys)”

  1. Sigh. If I’d written an article titled “Why the Hardy Boys are ideal role models for today’s boys (and girls)” there would be great wailing and gnashing of teeth. 🙂

    • Write it anyway. As a girl I thought the Hardy Boys were boring, and that their mysteries might have been more interesting if the brothers were instead Fran and Joie, but my brother liked them 🙂

      We’re always hearing that there aren’t enough good books to get boys addicted to reading. Why not remind parents of the good old Hardy Boys and their chums, Chet and that other guy?

      As writers, it’s in our best interest to get more kids hooked on books. It’s better than some other addictions they could have 🙂

      • The ‘modern’ ones, ‘updated,’ were so horrible (rape, arson, murder, terrorism) that I didn’t let my sons read them.

        Please read anything you give your kids – it may not be what you remember.

        • Oh! I think you said that before, and I forgot. Crap. It’s infuriating that someone would take good books for kids and just corrupt them like that. I will take your advice to heart; thanks for the reminder.

          • They don’t mess with the classics without some kind of warning, but these books which were written by syndicates are still being written – and updated – by groups of anonymous writers who agree to write what they’re told.

            Caveat emptor.

      • Don’t boys tend to go up to adult books pretty quickly? I know I was all The Hobbit, Conan, and GI Joe the comic starting in about 3rd or 4th grade.

        I’ve been successful in getting my neighbor boys to read Deadpool and Superman trades.

  2. Trixie Belden is the *real* model for independent women (and men). Nancy Drew was a debutante.

    • Ashe Elton Parker

      The thing is, back in the early 80’s, before I had access to any sort of computer, never mind anything like the internet, I could find Nancy Drew books in my local and school libraries.

      Never even heard of Trixie Belden.

      Oh, and from what I understand, most debutantes would have been kept from being able to do interesting things. They’d have been brought up to marry, no matter how well educated they were.

      A lower class woman can’t always rely on someone else’s money to support her, so she may by necessity have to do interesting things.

      Neither is worse than the other, as your comment implies. It’s just a matter of different social status and thus financial support.

    • Trixie Belden, indeed. My kinda gal (vs Nancy Drew).

  3. Nancy Drew comes up in the background of many women scientists, mine included, because she wasn’t kept from doing the interesting things.

    For some of us, 50-60-70 years ago, it was all there was to go against the huge pressures of conformity.

  4. Yep, Nancy Drew figures somewhere in the background of virtually every female reader I know, particularly of a certain age. She had adventures! She got into trouble and figured out how to get herself out! Along with Nancy, there was, as Judith said, Trixie Belden. And the Dana Girls, from the same group that gave us Nancy Drew. Even before that were the Bobbsey Twins, with girls right alongside the boys having adventures and solving mysteries. But yeah, Nancy really started it for a lot of women. It’s hard to express how important that was for those of us born in the late 50s. She taught so many of us that there was a wider world and to be brave and that we had power.

  5. In the initial versions (pre-50) of the early books Nancy was presented as a rebellious free spirit going against the expectations and limitations of her social class. And getting away with it. (In the real world, her fate would have been boarding school or worse.)

    She was, by design, presented as an aspirational model to provide inspiration to young girls. That she succeeded in doing exactly that should surprise nobody.


    As a rule, Iconic heroes in fiction follow two main paths: the ones that reflect the traits of humans as they are, and the ones that present a vision of what humans could or should be.

    In modern mythologies this is most clearly seen in the differences between the DC and MARVEL comic book heroes. Say, like comparing WONDER WOMAN to BLACK WIDOW or SUPERMAN to IRON MAN.

    Both approaches are valid and both produce memorable stories but if the goal is to inspire you get there faster with Galahad than Herakles. 🙂

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.